Lionel Messi scored one goal and set up another for Sergio Ramos as Paris Saint-Germain won 2-0 at Nice on Saturday to restore their six-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table and ease the pressure on coach Christophe Galtier.
Messi converted a Nuno Mendes cross in the 26th minute before Gianluigi Donnarumma produced several key saves and Dante was denied by the woodwork as PSG’s goal lived a charmed life on the Cote d’Azur.
Ramos then ended any doubt about the outcome when he headed in a Messi corner with 14 minutes remaining, as PSG bounced back from suffering consecutive home defeats.
Those losses had piled the pressure on Galtier amid reports he may not even see out the season.
The result clearly meant a lot to Galtier, who was in charge at Nice last season and expressed his displeasure at a banner unfurled by the home supporters aimed at his mother.
“My mum is 83 and has just had cancer. That’s all. And if these people in the stands have been watching games in Europe this season it is because of the work I did last season,” said Galtier, who led Nice to fifth in his single campaign at the club.
A win for PSG’s nearest challengers Lens on Friday had cut their lead at the top of the table to just three points before this game, and before the top two meet in Paris next weekend.
“We knew we had a lot of pressure on our shoulders both because of our poor performances and because of Lens winning, and especially because Nice are a really good team who have been on a great run,” Galtier told broadcaster Canal Plus.
“It was definitely not our best performance of the season but the players fought for each other and it is obviously three important points.”
He added: “It is better to have a six-point lead than be chasing after a six-point deficit but we know we have a very important match next weekend.”
It was a first defeat in 15 matches in all competitions for Nice since former PSG midfielder Didier Digard replaced Lucien Favre as coach in January. The Ineos-owned club remain eighth in the table.
– Donnarumma stars –
Messi’s 14th Ligue 1 goal of the campaign that opened the scoring came at the end of a week in which it emerged he was likely to leave Paris when his contract expires in the summer.
Before that, Danilo Pereira had already hit the woodwork for the visitors, who also saw injury-prone midfielder Renato Sanches come off hurt early on.
Donnarumma saved well from Nicolas Pepe and Terem Moffi before half-time, and Dante then sent an effort off the underside of the bar six minutes into the second half, with the ball bouncing down onto the line and then hitting the post. It was an incredible let-off for the league leaders, who were grateful to Donnarumma again as he made further stops from Pepe and Youssouf Ndayishimiye.
Ramos made it 2-0 but there was still time for Danilo to head against his own crossbar late on.
Marseille can rejoin Lens and close back to within six points of PSG with a win at Lorient on Sunday.
Earlier, bottom side Angers claimed their first Ligue 1 win since September as they beat European hopefuls Lille 1-0.
Substitute Halid Sabanovic scrambled in the only goal of the match with six minutes left as Angers ended a run of 21 matches without a win.
That means they will not match the French top-flight record for the most games without a win in a single season — that record is held by Arles-Avignon who went 23 matches without a victory in 2010/11.
They nevertheless remain seven points adrift at the bottom of the table and 12 away from safety with only eight games left.